In the first couple of weeks, these cards were everywhere in the format,mainly because they were new and shiny for some and nostalgic for others. Now that the novelty has worn off just a bit, I expect the metagame to trend more towards what we can expect to see in the future.
This past weekend was pretty big for Modern. Not only did we have the Magic Online Championship, where the best players in the world got to showcase what they believed to be the best Modern deck, but we also had an SCG Classic in Worcester and the most recent Modern Challenge on Magic Online. That's a pretty sizable chunk of information to dig through. So what did we learn from the weekend?
Jace, the Mind Sculptor isn't going to take over Modern.
Everyone can calm down. Jace isn't going to be the end of Modern. There was only one deck in the Top 8 of the SCG Worcester Modern Classic that played Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and there were no copies of Jace the Mind Sculptor in the Magic Online Modern Challenge Top 8. Not only did Jace have a medium weekend, but the Modern Classic at SCG Worcester had a whopping sixteen unique archetypes in the Top 16! That's incredible! The biggest fear that many people had about these unbans in Modern was that Modern would lose its diversity, but that is clearly not the case. Modern is alive and well.
Don't get me wrong, because Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a very powerful card, but I'm actually not sure that everyone has quite figured out what the best shell for him is yet. The de facto best pre-unban control deck was the Jeskai Control list popularized by Benjamin Nikolich. This seemed like the obvious place to throw in a playset of Jaces and call it a day. But as time goes on, we've seen these Jeskai decks fail to perform as much as everyone expected them to. The only two Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks that had success over this past weekend were actually Grixis Control shells.
Lars Dam made the Top 4 of the Magic Online World Championship with his take on Grixis Control. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is at his best when each player has traded off most of their resources and the control player can slam Jace as the last threat to take over the game. This Grixis deck takes that concept and runs with it, as it is very good at making sure players trade off resources early in the game.
Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and even Liliana of the Veil force trading off with hand disruption. These cards work well with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, making sure that the dust has settled by the time Jace hits the battlefield.
The other card in Lars's deck that I was very happy to see was Dire Fleet Daredevil. I'm starting to believe that Dire Fleet Daredevil is the second most underrated card in Magic right now, just behind Bomat Courier. How's that for a hot take?
Dire Fleet Daredevil is insane in the grindy matchups like Jund, Death's Shadow, or any of the Jace, the Mind Sculptor control decks. I expect to see that card catch on more and more as people figure out just how powerful it is.
Jund is positioning itself as a Modern powerhouse.
One of the biggest winners to come out of this weekend was Bloodbraid Elf. While Jace, the Mind Sculptor may have performed under everyone's expectations, the popularity of Bloodbraid Elf was above everyone's expectations going into this weekend.
Bloodbraid Elf Jund put two copies into the Top 4 of the Magic Online World Championship, a huge feat. It's starting to look like a significant portion of the Modern metagame right now will be made up of grindy midrange and control decks, and this Jund deck definitely shines there.
I've seen few Tireless Trackers in these Jund lists, which surprises me. The card is insanely powerful in any kind of grindy matchup. Expect it to pop up more in Jund sideboards, or really any green deck with fetchlands.
G/W Hexproof was an excellent metagame choice.
It was a good weekend for this little critter. While many of the Magic Online World Championship competitors were gearing up for a grindfest with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, Dmitriy Butakov decided to take advantage of this narrow metagame and sleeve up Slippery Bogle.
While I believe G/W Hexproof was an excellent choice for the small field of the Magic Online Championship, I don't expect this deck to be quite as good moving forward. G/W Hexproof benefited greatly from the excitement to try out Jace and Bloodbraid Elf, but as we move forward in Modern, people will realize that those decks will make up perhaps 20% of the metagame.
I might have a new favorite Modern deck.
Jordan Boisvert took down the SCG Worcester Modern Classic last weekend with Colorless Eldrazi.
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Eternal Scourge
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
This deck is highly reminiscent of Eldrazi Winter, when Eye of Ugin was still legal in the format. I knew that there was an Eldrazi deck running around with Serum Powder as a replacement for Eye of Ugin, letting you mulligan more aggressively for the powerful draws that the deck can offer with Eldrazi Temple and Simian Spirit Guide. I never really got around to testing it out until Jordan won the Classic, but as soon as I ran it through a Magic Online League, I immediately fell in love with Serum Powder.
I have long preached that the most important decisions to be made in Modern are your mulligan decisions. If your deck has access to powerful draws like a Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer, you have heavy incentives to mulligan toward those powerful draws. Serum Powder gives you a potent tool to increase the odds that you'll start with one of your powerful openers, and this deck has a ton of busted draws.
An early Thought-Knot Seer followed by a Reality Smasher is a classic and can be lights-out for a lot of decks, but sometimes even just a Chalice of the Void on one followed by a quick clock can be devastating. The deck even has access to Gemstone Caverns, which can accelerate you on the draw. Nothing feels better than exiling an Eternal Scourge to your Gemstone Caverns and then casting it on Turn 1 with an Eldrazi Temple. That's just good deckbuilding.
Eternal Scourge has a lot of synergies with the deck. It can be exiled with Serum Powder or Gemstone Caverns for free value, or you can bring in Relic of Progenitus from the sideboard to have an endless supply of Eternal Scourges against the control decks. Even if they Supreme Verdict away your battlefield, you can target yourself with Relic of Progenitus and choose to exile Eternal Scourge. This really shines in many of the grindy matchups that we've seen lately in Modern, and I can see why Jordan Boisvert did so well on the weekend.
I'm excited to see where Modern goes from here. I expect it to stay wide open for a while, as I don't think that either Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Bloodbraid Elf will prove too dominant. They'll be strong contenders, though, which makes the decision to unban them a good one.